Rick and Morty: Top 5 Rick AND Morty Episodes

The last of the three Rick and Morty Top 5 lists focuses on both Rick and Morty, discussing the episodes that most impact the two lead characters, their world, and their story. These are the big ones, episodes heavily steeped in continuity, where what we thought we knew about Rick and Morty (and Rick and Morty) changed. Again, these are in chronological order as opposed to being ranked to show how the characters have grown and the story has built on itself throughout the series’ run. If you haven’t read the first two lists, the links to them are below:

Top 5 Rick Episodes

Top 5 Morty Episodes


“Rick Potion #9” – Season 1, Episode 6

Rick and Morty

“Hey, there’s no dangers or anything, or side effects, right?”

A seemingly rote episode about a love potion that backfires is actually a massively important piece of Rick and Morty lore and a huge step in understanding Rick’s character and Morty’s development. After being humiliated in front of the object of his adolescent desires, Jessica, Morty asks Rick to help him attract her. Initially hesitant, Rick quickly whips up a concoction using oxytocin extracted from a vole (a species that mates for life, according to Rick) and a sample of Morty’s DNA. Rick’s potion will cause anyone who comes in contact with it to fall in love with Morty forever. At a school dance that night, Morty applies it to Jessica, and she becomes infatuated with him on the spot – as does everyone else in the room because Jessica has the flu and spreads the potion through her sneeze. Soon, the whole town becomes violently obsessed with Morty.

This is the kind of storyline you figure you can write in your sleep; Rick will develop a cure and save the day, with Morty learning a valuable lesson about manipulating someone’s affections. And, sure enough, Rick turns up at the school dance with an antidote made from praying mantis DNA (because a praying mantis mates once and then kills its lover) and a flu virus. Rick uses the spaceship to spread the antidote… and it fails. Instead of simply snapping out of their mania, the dance attendees turn into mutant praying mantises who want to have sex with Morty and then eat his head. So, Rick comes up with yet another antidote (made from a whole lot of animals) to turn the mantises back into people. And it works… for about thirty seconds, until everyone starts vomiting and turning into deformed creatures that Rick calls “Cronenbergs.”

So, whose fault is this? Predictably, Rick and Morty blame each other. Morty accuses Rick of being irresponsible by using new inventions that haven’t been tested and causing the mutations, but Rick fires back that Morty insisted on it because of his desire to force Jessica to love him. They’ve both got a point; Rick’s machinations and recklessness (because he didn’t care about the outcome) created the Cronenbergs, but Morty’s need to exert his will was the driving force behind it. This is our earliest indication that there is something dark inside Morty, and it isn’t his exposure to Rick that created it, as I discussed in the Top 5 Morty episodes. Morty essentially threatens Rick into making the love potion, and while that doesn’t excuse Rick’s role in it, it implicates Morty big-time.

But Rick’s Hail Mary plan at the end is what really makes “Rick Potion #9” essential. He locates an alternate universe where he and Morty die in an experiment gone wrong, then travels there with Morty, and they take their doppelgangers’ places, living with different versions of their family in an exact copy of their world. It’s the darkest the show has gotten yet (outside of that bathroom scene in the previous episode, “Meeseeks and Destroy”), and the first sense of the nihilism at the heart of the series – or Rick, at least. While Morty is horrified by their actions and what will be the rest of his life, Rick is perfectly at ease, caring so little about the switch that he doesn’t even attempt to bring Beth, Jerry, and Summer from what is now the Cronenberg World. For Morty, it’s a nightmare, but for Rick, it’s just another day.

The questions this raises are important for the rest of the series. Why does it matter so little to Rick which versions of his family he lives with? Early in the episode, he talks about love as being a chemical reaction that people assign meaning to; is he really so cynical that any version of his daughter and granddaughter are good enough for him? (Jerry is more understandable.) And if Beth and Summer can be any version of themselves as far as he’s concerned, why did Rick take Morty with him? Is it because he chose a world where both of them died, and he needed Morty to make it a seamless transition? Possibly, but he decided to take Morty with him before choosing another universe. Is there something special about this Morty but not Beth or Summer? Perhaps…

“Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” – Season 1, Episode 10

Rick and Morty

“We both know that if there’s any truth in the universe, it’s that Ricks don’t care about Morties.”

This is our introduction to the Citadel and the Council of Ricks, a governing body of alternate Ricks from other worlds who’ve formed a collective to protect themselves from the many people who want them dead (or so we’re told at this early stage). When a portal opens in Beth’s dining room, a different Rick and Morty assassinate Rick and kidnap Morty… except those are an alternate Rick and Morty too. Then, agents of the Council of Ricks – who are also Ricks – arrive to arrest our Rick and Morty for the murder, and twenty-six others. When the Council offers damning evidence and sentences him to a fate worse than death, Rick grabs Morty and escapes, setting out to find the real killer while the Council of Ricks hunts him through the multiverse.

Central to “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” is the dynamic between Ricks and Morties; Morties exist to serve Ricks, with each Rick at the Citadel having his own Morty and each Morty being subservient to his Rick. While on the run, Rick explains that having a Morty close by can hide a Rick from anyone trying to pursue him – even the Council of Ricks – by canceling out the Rick’s genius with the Morty’s dopiness. When they find the killer’s hideout, they see the outer walls covered with Morties, who are being pierced with automated blades to keep them in a permanent state of pain and fear, all the better to mask the Rick within. The Rick/Morty relationship is abusive by its very nature, with Ricks using Morties like tools, barely seeing them as people.

This extends to the evil Rick and Morty, distinguished by Evil Rick’s scar and Evil Morty’s eyepatch. Evil Morty follows his Rick’s orders unquestioningly, scoffing at the notion of rebelling when our Morty suggests it. They act as a perfect Rick and Morty unit, which is why they capture our Rick and Morty so quickly. But they aren’t the ultimate Rick and Morty, or, as Rick puts it, the Rickest Rick and the Mortiest Morty. That distinction goes to our Rick and Morty. What’s fascinating is that they’re the best because of how dissimilar they are to the others. Unlike the other Ricks, our Rick shows genuine affection for Morty, and when captured, our Morty leads an uprising of the other Morties, who declare him the One True Morty. Their individuality in the face of rampant conformity is what makes them the ultimate Rick and Morty.

Another thing “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” introduces is the idea of learning about Rick and Morty through alternate versions of them. There are other Ricks and Morties in this episode that break the mold, too, and they reveal the complexities in our leads. Evil Morty turns out not to be the subservient Morty we were led to believe but the mastermind behind the plot to steal Rick’s intelligence – the true motive behind the murders – while Evil Rick was being controlled via Evil Morty’s cybernetic eyepatch. Like we see in our Morty on occasion, there is potential for evil in Morties, with one of them being the show’s ultimate villain. And Rick’s potential for kindness and humanity is embodied by Doofus Rick, a slower-witted Rick who befriends Jerry. This Rick sees the good in everyone, from a deformed Morty to the pathetic Jerry, and from time to time, we see our Rick show flashes of that kindness as well, like when he cries over an image of Morty as a baby.

“Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” leaves us with questions as well, including questions we didn’t know we should be asking till later in the series. Why isn’t Rick a part of the Council of Ricks, and why does he resent them so much? The explanation given is that he’s too individualist – the Rickest Rick – and resents them for not being so, but at this point, we can’t trust everything Rick tells Morty. Why does the Council of Ricks assume our Rick is the killer? Again, the explanation is that he’s a non-conformist, but that seems thin… because there’s a reason we won’t understand till much later. What is the Central Finite Curve the Council talks about when judging Rick? What is Evil Morty up to, and why is he up to it? Is it significant that the Council refers to our Rick as “Rick C-137,” but Morty only calls himself “Morty C-137”? These questions are all not simply important to the overarching plot of the show but to understanding who Rick and Morty are as characters – and they will be answered.

“The Rickshank Rickdemption” – Season 3, Episode 1

Rick and Morty

“If you think my Rick’s dead, he’s alive, and if you think you’re safe, he’s coming for you.”

This actually is my favorite episode of Rick and Morty. It’s got everything: lots of action, heavy sci-fi concepts, great humor, Rick being a badass, character development, legitimate stakes, the Citadel and Council of Ricks, the Galactic Federation, and Nathan Fillion. It’s also crucial to understanding Rick and Morty as characters – how Morty has grown, what Rick really cares about, and how dangerous both of them are in different ways. It’s also the episode that single-handedly brought back the McDonald’s Mulan dipping sauce; I never tried it, and I doubt I’d like it as much as Rick does, but it’s still pretty impressive.

In season 2’s finale, “The Wedding Squanchers,” Rick bought his family’s freedom from the Galactic Federation by surrendering himself to the evil empire and making them think Jerry sold him out. Meanwhile, the Federation took over Earth and, essentially, the universe, turning our world into a bureaucratic nightmare. Now, the Federation is trying to pry information from Rick by sending an agent into his mind to extract the secrets of the portal gun. Meanwhile, Summer is determined to save Rick while Morty wonders if they should even bother, and the Council of Ricks wants to ensure Rick doesn’t divulge their location to the Federation.

“The Rickshank Rickdemption” is an examination of the good and bad aspects of Rick’s character, as told from the perspectives of someone who idolizes him and people who know how cold and selfish he can be. Summer is the audience stand-in, who thinks Rick is the coolest guy on Earth and would fight the Federation instead of succumbing to them as her parents did. The Council of Ricks, on the other hand, is scared that he’ll give them up to save himself and wants to kill him first. Morty is more level-headed; at first, he seems to be turning on Rick, trying to convince Summer that she’d be better off without him, but when they’re brought before the Council, he refuses to renounce Rick, and while he doesn’t idolize his grandfather, he doesn’t hate him either. (“He’s not a villain, Summer, but he shouldn’t be your hero.”)

But while “The Rickshank Rickdemption” is overt in its examination of Rick, it’s subtler in how it does the same to Morty. Like Rick, Morty lies to Summer, and while he has her best interests at heart, he’s still trying to turn her against her grandfather. He also lashes out at his devolved parents when he takes Summer to his old world, where even those who weren’t turned into Cronenbergs reverted to a savage state. It seems Morty has accepted his new, easier-to-digest family and now regards his old one with embarrassment.

But the big test of Rick and Morty’s characters comes when the leader of the Council has a gun to Summer’s head to hold off Rick, who’s killed the rest of the Council. (This episode is immensely satisfying.) Rick indicates that he doesn’t care if Summer dies because there are an infinite number of alternate Summers out there that he can enjoy. This moment works so spectacularly because nobody knows if Rick is being serious or strategizing. To emphasize the uncertainty of it, Summer – our stand-in – loses her faith in Rick and thinks he’s going to kill her or let her die. Funnily, it’s the Council leader who thinks Rick is bluffing, that he really does love Summer. Morty also has a gun, and he points it at Rick, unwilling to lose Summer.

In the end, it’s Rick who passes the morality test; he gives Morty a fake gun with a message to “shoot” him; then, when the Council leader lets down his guard, Rick kills him, saving his grandchildren. But Morty never sees the message; he thinks he’s killing Rick. Moreover, he doesn’t shoot Rick over Summer but over Rick’s insults to him, finally losing his cool and taunting what he believes is Rick’s corpse. So, the evil Rick Sanchez that we’re supposed to judge goes against his belief in the meaninglessness of life in a multiverse and saves Summer, whereas moralistic and judgmental Morty shoots Rick dead (effectively) over a few mean words. Once more, we see that both characters are capable of good and evil, and Morty is as unpredictable as Rick.

Where the episode is ambiguous and possibly damning of Rick is in its depiction of his motivations. At one point, Rick suggests that he surrendered to the Galactic Federation because he knew they’d take him to that very prison and he’d have access to their most sensitive information. And at the very end, when Beth leaves Jerry, he tells Morty that the entire thing was an elaborate plan to get Jerry out of his family because he knew Jerry was considering turning him in to the Federation. I don’t believe either of these; Rick’s entire gambit with the Federation and the Council of Ricks is based on lying. He lies to the Federation agent about the code to his portal gun, even claiming to have constructed a fake origin story to hide his deception. And he constantly lies to the Council and their henchmen, taking over the bodies of different Ricks to get them to do his bidding. After freeing himself from the Federation, he mentions his ability to improvise, and in the final scene, he says that his ultimate goal is McDonald’s Mulan sauce. In other words, he’s clearly lying, and – as he demonstrates with Summer – his motivation has been the love he’s developed for the family he’s finally allowing himself to get to know (which is another comparison drawn between Rick and Morty; this Smith family is neither of their natural families, but both are starting to regard them as such).

“The Rickshank Rickdemption” is also, on a baser level, probably the coolest Rick has ever been. He outsmarts the Federation as they’re trying to raid his mind, pits them and the Citadel against each other, and ultimately eliminates both of them in one fell swoop. And, to the end, Rick’s mind is his deadliest weapon; each battle he enters involves him manipulating his enemies, even the ones where he shoots them. The death blow he deals to the Federation is nothing more than typing on a computer (“Watch closely as Grandpa topples an empire by changing a 1 to a 0”), with human nature doing the dirty work for him. And while Rick’s mind is what makes him dangerous, Morty’s emotions are what do so for him, with Rick’s tirade pushing him to a murderous rage. This is peak Rick and Morty.

“The Ricklantis Mixup” – Season 3, Episode 7

Rick and Morty

“Nothing’s wrong with putting your faith in a Morty; you just gotta pick the right one.”

One of the most revealing episodes about Rick and Morty barely has Rick and Morty in it. Well, it barely has our Rick and Morty; there are lots of Ricks and Morties in “The Ricklantis Mixup,” an episode that takes place entirely within the Citadel except for the very beginning and post-credits scene. Here, we see what society is like in the Citadel now that the Council of Ricks has been destroyed; a new form of government has emerged, and the class differences between Ricks and Morties are a little less pronounced while still existing – sort of like the progression of race relations in the real world. But now that Morties are freer than they’ve been, the distinction between Ricks and Morties is blurring, as it is with the main Rick and Morty.

The three main storylines in “The Ricklantis Mixup” involve the Citadel’s first presidential election, a rookie Rick cop’s first day partnered with a burnt-out Morty veteran, and a disillusioned Rick factory worker who snaps at the realization that he’ll never rise above his station in life. In all three, the Ricks are vulnerable and human, realizing only too late that they don’t understand the way the world really works. Officer Rick is idealistic about police work, but the horrors Veteran Morty shows him chill his blood, making him question his understanding of right and wrong. Factory Rick is driven to murder and self-destructive acts when he sees how meaningless his life is. And the different Rick candidates underestimate not only the intelligence of their prospective constituents but the willingness of society to grow and become accepting of a Morty.

These Ricks display the traits most commonly associated with a Morty and vice versa. Officer Rick is moralistic and judgmental of a partner with a more practical and realistic outlook, while Veteran Morty assaults, kills, and steals, getting what he can from a hopelessly depraved world. Factory Rick has an emotional meltdown, ranting and raving at the status quo while other Ricks try to talk him down. And Candidate Morty possesses the qualities of a Rick; he’s thoughtful and reasoned, defeating the Rick candidates not only by appealing to the masses by preaching equality and a united Citadel of Ricks and Morties but by making intelligent arguments while his opponents are making jokes of themselves because of their arrogance. Candidate Morty’s message resonates because it’s true: there is little difference between Ricks and Morties, and all it took for a culture steeped in outdated tradition to realize that was for someone to come along and finally say it. (This is shown in the Student Morties despairing over how nothing will ever change – to the point where one of them kills himself – only to delight in seeing that change for themselves.)

Where two of them end up is where our Rick and Morty always are. Officer Rick is forced to kill Veteran Morty, accepting the cold reality of a meaningless world the way Rick does. Factory Rick is given the illusion of freedom by the owner of the company (who I guess we’ll call Willy Wonka Rick) only to be used as a product for the company’s wafer snacks, as Morty is used by Rick to continue his adventures. Then, there’s Candidate Morty, who becomes President Morty; he is Rick and Morty’s potential if they figure out how to utilize their best and worst qualities. He’s got the idealism and empathy (feigned or otherwise) of Morty with the calm ruthlessness of Rick, and he ends up running the Citadel. He even eliminates the Rick powerbrokers who were set to control him from behind the curtain, giving the Citadel’s citizens a true representative rather than a figurehead. But it’s all a lie because the final shot of “The Ricklantis Mixup” reveals that President Morty is actually Evil Morty from “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind.” Rick and Morty’s potential is for evil, control, and manipulation, to become the kind of state force they both hate. And if Evil Morty remains the central villain for the rest of the show, Rick and Morty are fighting their own dark possible future, the even greater monster they could become.

“Rickmurai Jack” – Season 5, Episode 10

Rick and Morty

“You can’t outrun your past, Rick.”

Here’s where everything comes together. “Rickmurai Jack” reveals all about Rick, and we finally get what feels like a complete understanding of Rick and Morty. Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure we only feel like we know everything, and there’ll be plenty more to learn as the series continues. But for now, a lot of questions have been answered, and we know Rick and Morty better than we did for five whole seasons.

Rick and Morty begin “Rickmurai Jack” apart, having split up at the end of “Forgetting Sarick Mortshall” so Rick could go on adventures with the two crows with which he replaced Morty. During a dustup in a bar, Rick is faced with a middle-aged Morty – balding, overweight, and looking like he’s half dead. Rick has lost track of time while being an anime parody, and life has been devastating to the Smith family that he abandoned to hang out with crows. Rick is dismissive of Morty, accusing him of trying to keep Rick from being happy, and he repeats his refrain about how their relationship was destructive. But when the crows “cheat” on him with the villain they’ve been pursuing, Rick immediately gives up on his new life (“Well, shit, this lost all meaning”) and returns home as if nothing has happened. To facilitate this, it turns out Morty isn’t really middle-aged; he just used some serum he got from the Citadel to age his body.

The gag about “[hitting] the reset button” is funny as a commentary on how TV shows often undo big events to keep the story going, but it’s also an indication that Rick was right about their relationship being unhealthy. Rick abandoned Morty, and Morty severely damaged his body to manipulate Rick into coming back; this is not a good look for either of them. Moreover, it demonstrates the same character flaws they’ve shown throughout the series: Rick is selfish and narcissistic, and Morty is manipulative and demanding. The crows that Rick idolized and claimed were changing him in a positive way were actually just momentary distractions that Rick forgets about completely when they’re of no use to him anymore, and Morty behaves creepily and selfishly without Rick, disproving the notion that it’s Rick who causes him to act this way. And this is just in the first few minutes.

Rick and Morty immediately go to the Citadel to reverse Morty’s aging, and after facing a deformed Morty who emerges from the sewers, they’re quickly asked to have dinner with President Morty, who butters them up like a good politician. Playing their roles, Morty falls for the act while Rick is convinced President Morty is evil. We know Rick is right, and it isn’t long before Evil Morty reveals himself; he invited them over to finish what he’d started in “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” and scan the rest of Rick’s brain. Everything Evil Morty has done so far has been in service of his ultimate plan: destroying the Central Finite Curve, something alluded to but not yet explained. And that’s where the reveals begin.

Evil Morty explains how the Ricks have engineered the multiverse to their advantage. The Central Finite Curve is a sort of barrier that walls off a section of the multiverse made up of all the worlds where Rick is the smartest man in the universe. Moreover, Ricks have been creating Morties all over the place, extracting DNA from alternate Beths and Jerries and growing Morties in a lab to serve as their shields and companions. The entire game is rigged by Ricks, making themselves as near to gods as they can be. The supreme arrogance Ricks demonstrate is born of fear that there might be someone better than them, that they aren’t in complete control of their world, and Morties are the victims of that fear. By destroying the Central Finite Curve, Evil Morty is leveling the playing field and allowing himself to escape to a world – an infinite number of worlds, in fact – where he can be more than just a tool for Ricks. And when Morty asks Rick if he only returned to him because the crows left, Rick simply hangs his head, seemingly confirming Evil Morty’s premise: Ricks don’t care about Morties, or anyone but themselves.

But this isn’t the only knowledge Morty is now armed with; Rick gives Morty the device where Evil Morty stored his brain scan, and Morty immediately uses it to see Rick’s true backstory. It’s surprisingly similar to what he showed the Federation in “The Rickshank Rickdemption” (which reminds me of something Wesley said about Angelus in Angel: “He lies with the truth.”); an alternate Rick killed his wife and daughter just as he was about to abandon science for good, so the formerly mild-mannered Rick Sanchez dove headfirst into his tech and started hunting down Ricks across the multiverse, but was never able to find his family’s killer. Eventually, he called a truce with the others and helped them form the Citadel, while he crashed into another world’s version of his home and decided to stay with the grown-up version of Beth he found there… as well as the first version of his grandson he ever saw.

So many questions are answered right off the bat. The Council of Ricks thought Rick was the murderer in “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” because he has a history of killing other Ricks. He was able to construct a memory to trick the Federation in “The Rickshank Rickdemption” so quickly and effectively because he used his real memories to form the basis of it. He was able to abandon Beth in the Cronenberg World because she wasn’t his Beth, just a ghost of the daughter he’d never have. It’s also why he’s so much more attached to Morty, Summer, and Birdperson than he is to Beth; the versions of them he interacts with on the show are the first ones he’s met. He had to save Birdperson in “Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort” because that’s his Birdperson. He never cared much for Summer in the Cronenberg World, but starting with “Something Ricked This Way Comes,” he became close to the Summer he has now; she’s his Summer. And he took Morty away from the Cronenberg World and always goes out of his way to save him because this is his Morty. It’s also why Morty assumed he was Morty C-137 in “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind,” but no one else ever called him that; he didn’t know he wasn’t from Rick’s original world, but the rest of them did.

It also pulls the rug out from under Rick’s – and the show’s – nihilism, revealing it as a coping mechanism for Rick to deal with the horrible losses he’s suffered. He hides behind his feigned belief that nothing matters because of the multiverse. This gels with Rick’s individualism; Rick is all about the individual, prizing it above everything, which is what separates him from the other Ricks. That would logically extend to those he loves, and it does; he just anesthetizes himself to the pain of losing his wife and daughter by pretending it isn’t so. It’s also why he pushes people away; he’s lost everything, and when someone new comes into his life to any degree, he does all he can to convince himself that they mean nothing to him, which makes him act selfishly and destroy all of these relationships. Morty is the last one, and with his crow nonsense, he may have burned that final bridge.

But he didn’t, because Morty, now understanding who Rick truly is, chooses him over Evil Morty. The warring sides of Morty, his potential for good and evil, face off, and good wins. If Morty’s bad choices are made independent of Rick, so are the good ones, and Morty chooses to make a new future by going the opposite route of Evil Morty; instead of trying to destroy Rick, he accepts him and resolves to be his friend. Evil Morty is the dark potential future for Rick and Morty, and Morty rejects it simply by being a good person. And in doing so, he shows Rick another way, that he can choose love over selfishness, which Rick indicates he will when he saves Morty from being sucked into space and places his hands next to Rick’s on the control switch that lets them escape the exploding Citadel. We’ve seen the many reasons why Rick is the Rickest Rick, but this is why Morty is the Mortiest Morty.

(By the way, here’s something else to consider: if his wife and daughter weren’t killed, not only wouldn’t Rick be the Rickest Rick, but he’d probably be the least-Rick Rick. He actually turned himself into the Rickest Rick. This show is all about the power of the individual, both in terms of potential and responsibility, and I love that about it.)

And now, Rick and Morty face a new world, one where Rick isn’t necessarily the smartest man in the universe, and Morty has a better understanding of the need to choose decency and kindness over selfishness and wrath. I can’t wait to see how that plays out.


And that’s a wrap. Let me know in the comments if you agree, disagree, or think I should shut up about cartoons already. (Although if you made it this far, you probably don’t mind discussing Rick and Morty.) Thanks for reading, and let’s hope for a great season 6 and beyond!

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